U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer to join Holland & Knight

Wifredo Ferrer
Wifredo Ferrer

Wifredo A. Ferrer, the outgoing U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, has accepted a position as head of the Global Compliance and Investigations team at the international law firm Holland & Knight.

The move, announced in a press release Wednesday, will put Ferrer in charge of corporate compliance and government investigations for the firm’s white-collar defense division.

Company officials said Ferrer, who with seven years as U.S. Attorney was the South Florida office’s longest-serving top prosecutor since the 1970s, will focus on both domestic and international clients.

“Over my many years in the South Florida community, I’ve been very impressed by the caliber and professionalism of Holland & Knight attorneys, many of whom I count as friends,” Ferrer aid in the news release. “The firm has an outstanding reputation in the profession and also embodies a culture that is deeply committed to giving back to the community. I look forward to contributing to its continued success.”

Ferrer will work at the firm’s Miami office, one of its 27 branches worldwide.

Former Statewide Prosecutor William Shepherd, who heads Holland & Knight’s West Palm Beach office, attributed Ferrer’s move in part to an opportunity to reunite with the head of the firm’s litigation section, John Hogan.

Ferrer previously worked with Hogan at the Department of Justice while Mr. Hogan was chief of staff to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.

“I think it’s great to have Willy as part of the the team,” Shepherd said, later adding: “He’s a real trial attorney, both from the county attorney’s office in Miami-Dade and as Assistant U.S. Attorney, so he brings new depth to an already strong national team.”

Wife of deputy accused of ID theft collapses after husband denied bond

The wife of a Palm Beach County sheriff's deputy accused of ID theft collapsed at a hearing Thursday.
The wife of a Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy accused of ID theft collapsed at a hearing Thursday. (File photo)

Daphne Felisma, wife of accused Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy Frantz Felisma, collapsed outside a federal courtroom in West Palm Beach Thursday after a judge denied bond for her husband.

Paramedics took her to the hospital after she fainted. Her husband, who faces identity theft charges, should remain behind bars because of the serious nature of the offense and, with family in Haiti, he is a flight risk, U.S. Magistrate James Hopkins said at the conclusion of a roughly two-hour hearing.

“I can’t imagine a much more serious offense than this,” Hopkins said. “For a law enforcement officer to be selling his position and selling law enforcement information to a known fraudster is one of the most serious crimes I can possibly imagine.”

Daphne Felisma started sobbing after Hopkins announced his decision. She tried to reach her husband as U.S. marshals led him out of the courtroom. Grabbed by marshals, she was ushered into the hallway where she collapsed. About 50 friends and family members, many crying, were also ordered from the courtroom.

Frantz Felisma, 42, of Boynton Beach, is accused of using law enforcement databases to get personal information about at least 50 people who owned expensive cars and selling the information to Kesner Joaseus, federal prosecutors said. Joaseus, who pleaded guilty to identity theft and other fraud charges in August, reported Felisma’s involvement to police. Joaseus set up credit card and bank accounts over 18 months, stealing an estimated $250,000, prosecutors said.

Joaseus told prosecutors he offered to pay Felisma $10,000 a month for the information but it is unclear how much he was paid or where the money went, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lauren Jorgensen said. Felisma’s bank account showed about $14,000 in unusual transactions from January 2013 until June 2014, she told Hopkins.

“Criminals don’t necessarily deposit money from a criminal enterprise,” she said.

Knowing Joaseus had been convicted of mortgage fraud, Felisma claimed he was investigating his activities. “I’m going to nail him,” his attorney Jason Kreiss said he told investigators.

Kreiss said Felisma maintains his innocence and is likely to ask a federal judge to overturn Hopkins’ decision to deny him bond. The appeals process could take more than two weeks.

Paul Schumack handed 12-year sentence in virtual concierge scheme

With a degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and 10 years of Army service, Paul Schumack wouldn’t seem to be the type of man who could be easily duped into taking part in an $80 million virtual concierge scam that claimed 1,800 victims nationwide.

Paul Schumack
Paul Schumack in his body-building days.

But, a psychologist told a federal judge Thursday, that despite his military training, Schumack was an easy mark for fraudsters.

“I regard Mr. Schumack as a total patsy,” said Glenn Caddy, a forensic psychologist who examined Schumack.

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hurley said Schumack might have been hoodwinked by Joseph Signore, the mastermind of the scheme that operated out of plush offices west of Jupiter. But, as chief of sales for the phony enterprise, Schumack deceived others on a massive scale, often using his West Point pedigree to reel in unsuspecting investors.

For that, Hurley said, Schumack should spent 12 years in prison.

“I really think you got taken by this,” Hurley said. “But you had to know something was wrong.”

Unlike hearings earlier this week, when Signore and his ex-wife, Laura Grande, launched into tear-streaked appeals for leniency, Schumack simply apologized for his actions. His 12-year sentence is less than Signore’s 20-year term but more than the 7-year sentence Grande received. Craig Hipp, vice president of manufacturing, is serving a seven-year sentence.

Joseph and Laura Signore in happier times.
Joseph and Laura Signore in happier times.

While some investors said the sentences weren’t harsh enough, a retired aircraft mechanic who lost $192,500 in the scam said he was satisfied. “I guess I’ve got a soft heart,” said Fred Myers, who purchased 55 electronic kiosks with the hope of earning big returns. “This will give them a lot of time to think.”

Myers, who lives outside Atlanta, Ga., said Schumack was the link to him and other Delta Air Lines employees. A former Delta worker knew Schumack through his successful and legitimate ATM sales business. That worker spread the word about Schumack’s new venture, Myers said.

Looking thinner than he did in December when he, Signore and Grande were convicted of multiple counts of fraud and money-laundering, Schumack acknowledged he took advantage of contacts he made in his ATM business.

“My investors weren’t just names in a phone book. They were friends, people I knew,” he said of those he urged to buy the phony kiosks. “I promoted these machines without checking further. I didn’t see the warning signs. Maybe I just didn’t want to.”

Caddy testified that Schumack lacks basic analytical skills. “He’s gullible to a profound fault,” he said. “He wants to believe people.”

That made him easy prey for Signore. “Mr. Schumack had a successful business model, but Mr. Signore had better talents as a sociopath,” he said.

Others also took advantage of Schumack. Worried about his fading sexual prowess, Schumack began buying testosterone from a former professional wrestler. He then gave the wrestler $1 million for a dubious venture without any contract in place to assure he would share in any profits, Caddy said.

“He was available emotionally, intellectually, spiritually to be manipulated,” Caddy said.

Such blind spots don’t excuse Schumack, Hurley said. He had to realize that investors who plunked down $3,500 for each machine with the promise of $300 in monthly returns weren’t getting paid. Further, while telling investors the machines were being placed in hospitals, hotels, casinos and sports venues, Schumack had to know few had been built and few advertisements, key to generating profits, were sold.

“As chief of sales, it’s inconceivable that you would not know they were not building the machines,” Hurley said.

Of the 22,000 machines that were sold, only 84 were produced. Meanwhile, Schumack and his wife bought a $1.5 million house in Coconut Creek and rented a beachfront condo in Highland Beach for $62,000 a month.

Some early investors were paid with money from those who invested later. Others persuaded credit-card companies to reverse the charges. Still, $31 million disappeared.

With the criminal action over, except for promised appeals, attention will turn to court-appointed receiver James Sallah. He has recovered about $8 million and has filed a series of lawsuits to get more for the victims.

Myers said he knows he will get “five cents on the dollar” from Sallah’s efforts. Hurley agreed. “There’s not any real hope these folks are going to be truly compensated,” he said.

VERDICT: Henry, Lherisson GUILTY of forcing Delray teens into sex

Defendant Francisco Henry (above) and Massillon Lherisson (not pictured) sit in court today as a victim testified in the sexual assault case against the two men at the Palm Beach County Courthouse July 9, 2012.
Defendant Francisco Henry (above) and Massillon Lherisson (not pictured) sit in court today as a victim testified in the sexual assault case against the two men at the Palm Beach County Courthouse July 9, 2012.

UPDATE 5:31 p.m.: It took jurors about an hour Wednesday to decide to convict Francisco Henry and Massillon Lherisson of 24 charges – including armed robbery, armed rape and false imprisonment charges – in connection with the bizarre 2010 robbery where fourt teens were forced to perform sex acts on each other.

Henry, 26, tilted his head back as the verdicts were read against him. Lherisson, having heard the guilty verdicts against Henry before a court clerk read his own convictions, stood stoically as the verdicts were read against him. The 25-year-old kept his eyes on the three men and three women on the jury.

The verdicts mean both men, whose first trial ended in mistrial four years ago, could face up to life in prison when Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes sentences them next month.

UPDATE 5:15 p.m.: Jurors just announce that they’ve reached a verdict in the retrial of two men accused of forcing four Atlantic High School students into sex acts in an abandoned Delray Beach home in 2010.

The verdict came about an hour after Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes sent jurors to begin deciding the case.

Attorneys have just returned to the courtroom.


ORIGINAL POST: The text message, written with both street slang and text abbreviations, had clear instructions for its recipient:

“Cum to da trap asap wt da fye thru da fnt doe asap kum naw wt da fye,” the sender wrote.

In closing arguments in Francisco Henry and Massillon Lherisson’s rape and robbery trial Wednesday, Assistant State Attorney Jo Wilensky that Lherisson sent that message to Henry to get him to bring “fye” – street slang for a gun – to an abandoned Delray Beach house where they robbed and forced four Atlantic High School students into sex acts.

Wilensky and fellow prosecutor Chrichet Mixon both used phone records between Henry and Lherisson, and the victims’ identifications of them, in their last attempts Wednesday to convince jurors to convict them of 24 charges that include armed sexual battery, armed robbery and false imprisonment.

“Those kids lives are forever changed by what they were made to do,” Mixon said.

The fact that both men disconnected their phones

Henry’s attorneys, Joseph Walsh and Crystal Kim, and Lherisson’s attorney, Joshua LeRoy. used the phone records conversely to tell jurors that even if prosecutors could link the phones to the men, they didn’t prove any wrongdoing.

Defendants Massillon Lherisson (above) and Francisco Henry (not pictured) sit in court today as a victim testified in the sexual assault case against the two men at the Palm Beach County Courthouse Monday, July 9, 2012.
Defendants Massillon Lherisson (above) and Francisco Henry (not pictured) sit in court today as a victim testified in the sexual assault case against the two men at the Palm Beach County Courthouse Monday, July 9, 2012.

“Fye,” Walsh told jurors,  is also a term to describe good marijuana, and Henry used to sell marijuana. And even the one victim who said he knew Henry because he’d purchased marijuana from him couldn’t point him out in the courtroom last week until near the end of his testimony.

If the two men were forcing the teens to perform sex acts on one another, LeRoy said, then why did none of the victims recall either of the assailants ever taking a phone call when phone records show both held phone conversations at the time the victims say the attack occurred?

Walsh and LeRoy both spoke about Spencer Britt, a man initially arrested in the attack but released after one of the victims came forward and said he wasn’t involved.

Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes sent jurors to begin deliberations just after 4 p.m.

If convicted as charged, both men face up to life in prison. This is the second trial in four years on the case. A first trial in 2012 ended in a mistrial.


PBC man gets 9 years for role in $3 million Riviera Beach heist

A 43-year-old Palm Beach County man on Tuesday was sentenced to nine years in prison for his role in a $3 million heist from a Riviera Beach armored truck facility, a crime that took FBI agents three years to solve.

tmpNSWfqS-mdly-photoSircorey Wilder is the third of three men to be convicted and sentenced in connection with the bold September 2012 robbery at Garda Cash Logistics. Darryl Peterkine, 39, of Riviera Beach, is serving a 15 1/2-year sentence. Hjalmar Towns, 30, a Riviera Beach man who worked at the money-handling facility on Garden Road, is serving a 6 1/2-year sentence on top of another 14-year term in connection with an 2013 attempted robbery of a Garda armored truck.

A fourth man, Michael Sheffield, was shot dead outside his Riviera Beach home in January 2013. Identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in court records, his murder is believed to have been connected to the robbery, Assistant U.S. Attorney Aurora Fagan told U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg. No one has been charged.

Lauren Fleischer Louis, who represents Wilder, pleaded for leniency for her client, arguing that he had cooperated with federal prosecutors and helped them identify the two others involved in what turned out to be an inside job. But, Fagan told Rosenberg, Wilder had a selective memory.

Click here to read more.

Owner of Rumbass, brother handed 9-year terms in scam

The owner of Rumbass nightclub and his brother have been sentenced to 9-year prison terms for their roles in what federal prosecutors described as a $3 million staged accident scheme that ripped off dozens of insurance companies.

RELATED: PIP fraud not ended by “reforms,” Lake Worth and other cases showed

Janio Vico
Janio Vico

Janio and Jharildan “Harold” Vico were sentenced last week after  a nearly all-day hearing in front of U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg. She also ordered  Janio Vico, 32, who owned the Military Trail dance club, and his 34-year-old brother to pay $1.9 million in restitution.

Jharildan Vico
Jharildan Vico

A jury in October convicted the Lake Worth area brothers of 16 charges, including money laundering and mail fraud, in connection with V&V Rehabilitation, a clinic the brothers operated from 2009 to 2011 on 10th Avenue North near Boutwell Road.

Prosecutors claimed the clinic was a sham. No real treatment was offered and few of the patients who went there were actually injured, they said.

Like dozens of others who have been prosecuted in recent years, the two were taking advantage of the state law that requires Florida drivers to carry personal injury protection insurance and insurers to pay up to $10,000 for each person injured in a crash, a jury found.

The brothers hired people to get involved in traffic accidents and then billed insurance companies for treatment their clients either didn’t need or didn’t receive. The key to the operation was a chiropractor, who allowed the brothers to use her license to operate the clinic. The chiropractor, Jennifer Adams, was previously convicted, and testified against the brothers during the three-week trial.

Claiming the clinic was a legitimate health care operation, lawyers representing the Vicos have vowed to appeal the verdict.